The Delivery Room
by Mitch Thrower
To be successful you've got to meet expectations. Some people can do this with their eyes closed; others need their hand held just to show up to work on time. In this installment of Mitch Thrower’s The Attention Deficit Workplace, we see what it means to deliver.
You can attend business school, receive an MBA, and then read thick textbooks on advanced management techniques. But you will seldom encounter this critical element of the Attention-Deficit Workplace, you must be adept at telling people what you are going to do and then actually do what you say. It’s doubly important that you track and communicate what you are doing. Why? Given the high incidence of blame-placing and credit taking present within corporate culture, you must make sure the organization gives you credit when that credit is due.
Managers have just enough time to check what they are expecting from you. Beyond that, they don't really want to interact. This is also why, when you enter into any situation with a manger, do not simply outline a problem without suggesting two or three solutions. People don't want to hear about problems without solutions.
The real secret to managing expectations? You set other people’s expectations. So set them correctly, without breathing room. At the end of the meetings when colleagues are expected to take action steps, ask them to repeat their “deliverables,” or what is expected of them and when.
I’ll never forget one of the most effective phone calls I ever received. It was from Scott Lange, a superb manager and sales executive in New York City. He was working with the New York Marathon on a detailed proposal from Active. At one point in the conversation, he said, “Mitch, just to be sure, have I provided you with everything I said I would? And, more important, everything you were expecting from me?” His words made me realize why he was so successful- he carefully tracked everything he committed to doing.
I also know that when I call or e-mail Active's IT manager, Chad Smith, he will return my call or address the issue within a few hours, if not in a few minutes.
Then there are the flakes. They never deliver on their promises. I was in the process of getting a non-profit company off the ground called Project Active, which was designed to help disadvantaged kids in war-torn countries through sports. I hired a part-time assistant for the project who interviewed extremely well, but then she disappeared. It was actually entertaining. She would tell everyone that she would be at the office, and then never show up. We used to make bets whether she would make it. In two weeks, she came into the office four days. No one heard from her when she left. She still has a binder with some important photos.
Lesson: Manage other people’s expectations very carefully. If you can’t deliver on all your promises, immediately contact the person who has an expectation of you and level with them. Set expectations below what you expect to deliver. In your Attention-Deficit Workplace, tell people what you are going to do, then do it, track it, and then tell people what you did. It really is that simple. In the expectations delivery room, it’s your baby.
Mitch Thrower is an author, financier, triathlete, entrepreneur and philanthropist living in La Jolla, California and New York City, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.